10 Things We Learned from February 2014 Birchbox Samples

Scent of a Woman

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about designer Joan Vass, it’s that she had one of the coolest resumes in New York. Before entering the fashion world, she got her start as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. And as if questing for cool points, she translated her passion for handmade knits and crochets into an original (and now classic) clothing line. Now, the artistically inclined fashion house has rolled out a trio of fragrances—like the feisty-chic L’eau de Cristal. They’re just as modern as Vass’s chunky knits, but can be worn year-round.

We Walk Among Haircare Giants (and Knights)!

We always knew we were in the presence of greatness. In addition to being credited with Hillary Clinton’s total-hair transformation back in the '90s, haircare darling Frédéric Fekkai became a knight in 2010. The French government awarded him the Légion d'honneur for his contributions to society (read: society’s coifs). While “knight” is more of a nominal role these days, we think the honor is well deserved: The man has found a cure for dullness with his Brilliant Glossing Shampoo and Conditioner.

The Polar Vortex Won’t Protect You from the Sun

Come rain, come snow, come confusing snow-sleet, our skin is still susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays. As much as 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate the atmosphere even on the cloudiest of days—which means our skin has to keep its guard up. COOLA’s Tinted Matte SPF 30 for Face is perfect for protecting skin year-round, and it does so without that signature greasy feel (or cloying scent) of most formulas.

There Are Six Skin Types…

Up-and-coming skincare brand Previse has created a handy rubric for identifying your skin type. The brand takes a variety of factors into account—like your melanin levels and history of sunburn—before assigning you a derm-approved regimen. But good news: The product we’re sampling this month, Previse® Hydromilk™, is a nongreasy hydrator that’s suitable for all six types. Read more about Previse’s skin types here.

...And Six Eye Shapes!

Six, apparently, is the magic number this month. After studying over 5,000 eyes, makeup brand Smashbox winnowed the variety of eye shapes down to six main types, ranging from almond to hooded to monolid. Their 14-color Full Exposure Palette helps you create a custom smoky eye, tailored to play up your individual shape. Intimidated? Don’t be. Check out our handy how-to.

Tahiti Is a Haircare Gold Mine

The largest island in French Polynesia, Tahiti is the birthplace of the famous otea dance—widely recognized for its vigorous hip-shaking (think of it as a faster hula). It’s also the birthplace of one of our favorite hair saviors—a traditional concoction called monoi oil, made by soaking the petals of Tahitian gardenias in coconut oil. An excellent hair-softener and overall conditioning agent, monoi is one of the star ingredients in Bain de Terre’s color-saving duo: Passion Flower Color Preserving Shampoo and Conditioner. So go ahead and get your monoi on.

We All Have Our Beauty Vices

We’ve all resorted to some less-than-kosher beauty measures. Case in point: Cynthia Rowley, the designer who’s tried her hand (successfully, we might add) at making everything from runway fashions to BAND-AIDS, admits to having used a Sharpie on her lids instead of eyeliner. And then she created her own, better version: Cynthia Rowley Beauty Liquid Liner. Oh, and it comes free of toxic fumes.

Our Favorite Place Has a Lot in Common with Our Least Favorite Place

The anxiety of the dentist’s chair seemingly couldn’t be further from the sublimely relaxing experience of the nail salon. And yet, one of our favorite lacquer brands, (OPI)[/shop/brands/opi], originated as a dental supply company. As OPI’s Artistic Director revealed in our interview, the same technology behind dentures was applied to creating game-changing acrylic nails in the 1980s. When salons couldn’t get enough of OPI’s new formulas, the brand quickly transitioned out of medicine and into the realm of beauty.

Our Skin Absorbs 60-80 Percent of What We Slather on It

If our brains were half as absorbent as our skin, just think what we could accomplish! (Oh, the trivia games we'd dominate.) In light of our skin’s spongey characteristics, some brands are opting to play it safe with a squeaky-clean ingredients list. W3LL PEOPLE created its all-natural makeup line with the express purpose of keeping us healthy, inside and out. We’re huge fans of their Universalist Multi-Use Color Stick, which adds a lightweight pop of radiance using plant-derived ingredients (think: grapeseed oil and green tea).

You Can Get an Airbrushed Look Without an Airbrush

Benefit Cosmetics is changing the name of the tinted moisturizer game—literally. Their latest win, Big Easy, not only absorbs shine, but delivers a velvety-soft finish without the aforementioned airbrush. The idea is to be “bigger than BB”—and early reports are glowing.

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